Scientists announced Wednesday that they have restored blood flow and cell function throughout the bodies of dead pigs for an hour, a breakthrough experts say could mean we need to update the definition of death. is required.
The discovery raised hopes for a range of future medical uses in humans, the most immediate being that it could help organs last longer, potentially saving thousands of lives worldwide from needing transplants. could.
However it could also give rise to debate about the ethics of such procedures – in particular some dead pigs startled scientists by suddenly nodding their heads during the experiment.
The scientific community was shocked after a US-based team managed to restore cell function in the brains of pigs in 2019 after they were beheaded.
For the latest research published in the journal Nature, the team tried to spread this technique throughout the body.
He caused a heart attack in the anesthetized pigs, which stopped the flow of blood to the body.
This deprives the body’s cells of oxygen – and without oxygen, the cells in mammals die.
After this the pigs lay dead for an hour.
cell death can be prevented
The scientists then pumped the body with a fluid containing the pigs’ blood, as well as a synthetic form of hemoglobin — the protein that carries oxygen in red blood cells — and drugs that protect the cells and prevent blood clots. Huh.
Blood began to circulate again for the next six hours after the experiment, and many cells, including vital organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys, began functioning.
“These cells were working hours when they shouldn’t – this tells us that the cells’ demise may have been prevented,” Nenad Seston, senior author of the study and a researcher at Yale University, told reporters.
Yale co-lead author David Andrijevic also told AFP that the team hopes the technology, called OrganX, can be used “to salvage organs”.
Anders Sandberg, of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, said OrganEx could also make new forms of surgery possible because it “creates more medical wiggle room in cases with no circulation to fix things.”
The technology could also potentially be used to revive people. Although it can increase the risk of bringing patients back to a point where they are unable to live without life support — called “Bridge to Know,” said Brendan Parent, a bioethicist at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine. In a linked comment to Nature.
Is death curable?
Sam Parnia of the NYU Grossman School of Medicine said it was a “really remarkable and incredibly important study.”
This showed that death was not black and white, but a “biological process that remains treatable and reversible for hours after it occurs”, he said.
Benjamin Curtis, a philosopher focused on ethics at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, said the definition of death may need to be updated as it hinges on the concept of immutability.
He told AFP: “This research shows that many processes that we thought to be irreversible are not actually irreversible, and so on the current medical definition of death a person cannot actually die unless his bodily functions Doesn’t stop.”
“In fact, there may be dead bodies lying in the morgue right now that are not ‘dead’ yet, if we accept the current definition as valid.”
During the experiment, nearly all OrganEx pigs made powerful movements with their heads and necks, said Stephen Latham, a Yale ethicist and co-author of the study.
“It was quite shocking to the people in the room,” he told reporters.
He emphasized that although it was not known what caused the agitation, no electrical activity was recorded in the pigs’ brains at any point, indicating that they never regained consciousness after death. .
While there was a “slight burst” on the EEG machine that measures brain activity at the time of the movement, Latham said it was probably caused by head relocation affecting the recording.
However Curtis said that movement was a “major concern” as recent neuroscience research has suggested that “conscious experience may persist even when electrical activity in the brain cannot be measured”.
“So it is possible that this technique actually caused the subject pigs to suffer, and caused humans to suffer,” he said, calling for more research.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)